Japan will consider acquiring the ability to strike at enemy missile sites, given North Korea’s enhanced missile technology program, according to an interim report released Friday for revising long-term defense policy.
The midterm report, compiled by the Defense Ministry, calls for “the need for enhancing comprehensive abilities” to counter ballistic missile attacks. Although the report does not use the term “strike capability,” discussions on acquiring this option are included, a ministry official said.
The report also calls for developing an amphibious force like the U.S. Marines with the ability to protect Japan’s remote islands, which number more than 6,000, while China’s threat to the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea continues. Taiwan also claims the islets.
Based on the midterm report, the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito-led administration plans to finalize its new National Defense Program Guidelines by year’s end.
“There is no change in our basic stance of defense-only policy,” Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters. “If Japan faces various threats, we must prevent (an attack) by using our country’s defense capabilities.”
Onodera, however, stressed that Japan will not use pre-emptive strikes, which are banned under the Constitution. What the government will be discussing is whether to acquire the ability to strike in self-defense, he said.
The government takes the view that the Constitution allows it to strike enemy bases in self-defense if there is no other means to protect the nation.
As for amphibious abilities, the ministry is considering bolstering the existing special Ground Self-Defense Force unit trained for defending islands as a base to create a marine-style force, according to the ministry official. The special force, some 700 to 800 service members, is currently based at Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture.
The government will also discuss purchasing unmanned surveillance aircraft to address the growing East Asia security concerns and to enhance its disaster response abilities, as well as to strengthen cooperation with the U.S. and the private sector to counter cyberattacks.
The current National Defense Program Guidelines were drafted in 2010 by the then-ruling Democratic Party of Japan. Given the increasingly strained security environment, the LDP froze this policy in January.